SAN JOSE -– Since the middle of November, there hasn’t been a poorer road team in the NHL than Winnipeg.
Not even that could help the Sharks secure their first back-to-back home wins of the season, as the Jets downed San Jose at SAP Center on Saturday night, 4-1.
Winnipeg, which entered Saturday just 1-11-1 in its last 13 games away from home, snapped a six-game road losing streak.
The Sharks dropped to 1-2 on a five-game homestand. They remain with the NHL’s worst home record (5-11-0).
Leading 1-0 to start the second, Winnipeg increased its lead on a Joel Armia marker. The rookie skated around Marc-Edouard Vlasic and tried centering the disc to Matt Halischuk, who had position in front of the net on Justin Braun at 2:45, and it deflected through Martin Jones off of Braun. It was the 22-year-old Armia’s first career goal in his eighth game, and was the game-winner.
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The Sharks, playing a particularly soft game to that point, got on the board after a Dustin Byfuglien slashing penalty 200 feet from the Jets’ net. Brent Burns blasted a howitzer from the top of the circle on a one-timer from Joe Thornton at 9:23 for his 16th goal of the season, which leads all NHL defensemen.
San Jose had a couple chances on another advantage shortly after that, including Patrick Marleau’s chance after he busted through the circles between two Jets defenders, but instead it was Winnipeg regaining its two-goal cushion. After Braun’s delay-of-game penalty, Mathieu Perreault hissed in a powerful wrist shot with Vlasic possibly screening Jones at 14:55 to make it 3-1 at the break.
Alex Stalock entered in goal to start the third period, but neither team scored in the final frame until Nikolaj Ehlers’ empty netter at 17:17 capped the scoring.
The Jets opened the scoring at 13:14 of the first. Joel Ward’s blatant turnover resulted in a slam-dunk shorthanded goal by Drew Stafford on a Blake Wheeler setup. San Jose is 0-11 at home when allowing the first goal.
The Sharks dropped to 1-6-1 against the Central Division. They are 13-4-4 all-time against the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise.
The Sharks finished 1-for-5 on the power play, and are 10-for-28 over their last seven games (35.7 percent).
Winnipeg was 1-for-3 going up against the Sharks penalty killers, who entered the night ranked 29th at home.
Stafford’s goal was just the second shorthander allowed by San Jose this season.
Joe Pavelski was called for an illegal check to the head of Winnipeg’s Bryan Little at 3:16 of the second period, negating a Sharks power play after just 17 seconds. Little left the ice but later returned.
Jones was pulled for the fourth time this season after allowing three goals on 20 shots through two periods. Stalock, playing for the first time since Dec. 18, made six saves on six shots in the third period.
Connor Hellebuyck, a 22-year-old rookie, improved to 8-4-0 on the season in his first career game against the Sharks with 27 saves.
In the second period, Pete DeBoer started mixing up all of his forward lines and defense pairs, trying a multitude of different combinations for the rest of the night.
Thornton increased his point streak to eight games with an assist. It’s his longest scoring streak since Nov. 8-Nov. 20, 2014, when he also reached eight games.
Ben Smith and Mike Brown remained as healthy scratches for the Sharks.
The Sharks are off until Thursday when they host the Red Wings. On Nov. 13, San Jose claimed a 3-2 win at Joe Louis Arena to start a six-game road winning streak.
The five-game homestand concludes with the Maple Leafs next Saturday, Jan. 9.